I experienced my first DC-area snowstorm Wednesday evening, and now I know why even just a few inches of snow are such a big deal: heavy traffic, hills and quick icy buildup.
We got a notice at work early in the afternoon that, like the federal government, we could leave two hours early. I had a few things to do, and it was only a light mix of sleet and light snow then, so I didn’t leave until a little after 5.
Then the fun began. Since it’s the very beginning of the bus run, the driver was there waiting for the exact time to pull away and let a few of us on to keep warm until then. We got about a block and came to a complete standstill — for at least 20 minutes. Other passengers were checking tweets and learned that the traffic ahead was completely stalled.
Many passengers started getting off at that point, but I had a newspaper to read and was cozy and warm and figured I’d see how far we could get. Well, an hour later and we only had gotten a few more blocks, so it was time to reassess the situation. I called a co-worker who told me her walk home was fine. So off the bus I went.
It took me about 40 minutes to walk home about 2.5 miles, trudging on footprint-packed snow on the sidewalks. I quickly could see the problem: we were approaching a hill and cars got stuck going up and blocked traffic. I felt sorry for people driving, as they didn’t have the option I did to just get out and walk.
It was kind of eerie, though, as I walked along sidewalks strewn with small tree branches that had fallen down, and at a woodsy intersection, I could hear trees falling not too far off. There were flashes of lightening to illuminate the scene, too (while I didn’t hear thunder, apparently there was plenty of it because the storm has been nicknamed “thundersnow”). For several blocks I walked through neighborhoods without any power, which made for a lovely scene of streets lit only by the fresh snow on them and the surrounding trees.
The power was on getting closer to my neighborhod, but I began to worry when I walked under some lowered power lines just a couple of blocks away. What a relief to get home and see my landlords’ lights on. The power flickered on and off throughout the evening, and my landlords provided me with candles. Just to be prepared, I dined by candlelight, and kept a flashlight handy wherever I was before bedtime. I cranked up the heat in my bedroom and shut the door, hoping to build up some extra warmth if the power were to go off for awhile.
The power never did go off, but I’ve been without Internet access since Wednesday. So although our offices were closed on Thursday, I trudged into work — the buses didn’t start running until 10 a.m. — along very messy sidewalks and deep puddles at every intersection that had my feet soaked by the time I got to the office.
Yesterday I learned that many drivers were stuck in traffic for up to 8 hours and some abandoned their cars that were later towed away. More than 400,000 households were without power (apparently Montgomery County, where I live just outside DC, has a high density of trees that can cause such damage) . But some people did have fun in a big snowball fight in Dupont Circle in DC or on a couple of days off from school and work.